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Tinubu Approves Committee to Revive Ajaokuta Steel Plant

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By David Torough, Abuja

President Bola Tinubu has approved the formation of a committee comprising key stakeholders to revive the Ajaokuta steel plant to boost economic growth.

The committee is made up of the Minister of Steel Development, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, and Solid Minerals.

The Minister of Steel, Shuaibu Abubakar-Audu disclosed this to State House Correspondents on Thursday in Abuja after he and the Minister of Defence, Mohammed Badaru briefed the President on their recent trip to China.

Abubakar-Audu underscored critical points for the plant’s revival, emphasising the establishment of military hardware capabilities.

He explained that a Chinese steel group, Lu’an Steel Holding Group has committed to investing in a new plant in Nigeria, while an Indian steel group plans to send an advanced team for collaboration.

“We just saw Mr. President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the minister of defense, Alhaji Mohammed Badaru and I myself, met with him earlier this afternoon. And we discussed the three critical matters. Number one, we briefed him on the Minister of Defence and I’s recent trip to China.

“We were in China on the 1st of January 2024, we were there till the 8th of January. And met with the Lu’an Steel Holding Group, which is one of the largest steel companies in China, and is among the top 20 steel companies in China. They produce about 20 million metric tons of steel per annum.

“We had very meaningful discussions with them, and they agreed and made a commitment to set up a new steel plant in Nigeria, where thousands of jobs would be created, and they would invest billions of dollars in foreign direct investments into Nigeria.

“In that same regard as well, basically, our discussions with Lu’an Steel Holding Group, they mentioned that they would send an advanced team to Nigeria after the Chinese New Year, sometime at the end of February 2024. And we briefed Mr. President that when the team is on ground, we would like to also give them audience with Mr. President, which he approved. Mr President was very happy with the development.

“The third thing as well, is that the reason the Minister of Defence and I jointly met with Mr. President was that we’re setting up a military hardware capacity and capability in Ajaokuta steel plant and based on that the Chinese team would help us to build that military hardware capabilities in Ajaokuta, in one of the production units. And so that’s the first agenda on the table for the joint meeting,” the minister said.

According to him, the agenda extended to the plant’s contribution to national infrastructure projects through the production of iron rods.

“The second agenda for discussion with Mr. President, was that Mr. President gave me approval towards the end of last year to raise some money to restart and rebuild the Light steel Mill of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant to be able to produce iron rods, which iron rods would be taken by the Ministry of works.

“The Minister of Works, Senator David Umahi, has already written a letter to me through his ministry, guaranteeing that they will be off takers in the iron rods that are being produced. Basically, the President under the Renewed Hope Agenda, which the Minister of works is driving, plans to construct about 30,000 kilometres of roads across Nigeria, where they will need about 7 million metric tons of iron road.

We can produce about 400,000 tons of those iron rods in Ajaokuta if we’re able to restart the steel plant.”

Abubakar-Audu also said the President has also approved local fundraising initiatives.

“Mr President gave approval for us to raise money locally. The first phase of the project for Ajaokuta Steel Plant, to revive the entire steel plant will cost somewhere between $2 to $5 million and however to restart the light steel section of the mill is going to cost about N35 billion. So we’re going to the market to show proof of consent to raise this money from local financial institutions to be able to restart that.

“We’ve gotten some offer letters from some financial institutions. And we think that you know, we should be able to conclude that in the next few days or few weeks for us to be able to hit the ground in Ajaokuta and start that project.

“The last item on the agenda was feedback to Mr. President on Jindal steel. If you recollect on the sidelines of the G-20. Meeting in India, Jindal steel committed to invest in $5 billion. So I briefed Mr. President and I’ve met with representatives of Jindal steel, and they’re very serious about their commitment. And we’re currently looking for a land that is close to a gas station that has a port and is close to the natural or mineral resources such as, you know, iron ore and the likes to be able to get them the ideal location. Either they set up a greenfield or they acquire an existing plant, such as, you know, the Delta steel plant.

“So those are the things on the table. Mr. President has given us go ahead to set up a committee with some very critical stakeholders within the government, including the likes of the minister of finance the CME, including the likes of the Minister of trade and investments, to the Minister of Defense, Minister of Solid Minerals and myself to be able to get this thing running and get it off the ground.

“So the Renewed Hope Agenda is here to stay. We think that if we’re able to complete all these projects that have been approved by Mr. President, including the revival of Ajaokuta, we should be able to create not less than 500,000 jobs and bring billions of dollars into the economy. And so Mr. President is very happy with that development. And the Minister of Defense and Alhaji Mohammed Badaru and I came to brief Mr. President, this afternoon thank you very much.”

Asked the initial amount that will be invested, the minister said: “It will be in billions of dollars. The final amount has not been determined, when they come to the country and make a determination they would meet Mr. President, they will meet key stakeholders, we would look at a map of where the key mineral resources are, where will give them access to be able to transport their goods to the final products in the markets, to rail lines, ports, gas, you know, a big enough land to be able to accommodate everything that is required. Once that is determined they will then know how much they’re going to invest but it will be in billions of dollars, but the exact amount has not been determined.”

The Minister acknowledged challenges facing the plant, emphasising the gradual nature of Ajaokuta Steel Plant’s revival and the need for support from all stakeholders, including the Transmission Company of Nigeria.

Asked how investors will take the government serious with the disconnection of electricity from Ajaokuta Steel Plant due to N30 billion debt and what the explanation for the debt is since the plant has not been in dull capacity, Abubakar-Audu said investigation was ongoing.

He said: “I mean these are some of the things that need to be clearly looked into. Like you mentioned, one of the things I spoke to the MD of Ajaokuta today (Thursday), and this was one of the questions I asked and we’re going to get to the bottom of it, why consumption of so much electricity in a place that is not operating at full capacity. Part of what we also need to do is that we’re trying to revive Ajaokuta in a collegiate system, in piecemeal, and so we may not have the capacity to be able to pay all those outstanding amounts immediately.

“Part of what the MD of Ajaokuta told me is that most of the money is in interest payments. And NBET (the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading), the electricity company that has disconnected it, is also a government agency. So if we as a government ministry, government agency are trying to revive Ajaokuta working hard to do that, we should not have another hand within the same government making things very difficult for us.

“And so part of what we plan to do is to sit down on the table in the next few days as quickly as possible to be able to come up with a plan so that they can put it back on the grid and put things back in order. Is a gradual process and Ajaokuta cannot be revived overnight. This is a plant that has not been working for 45 years, it is a difficult task to try and get it back on track.

“So, we need the support of the entire government apparatus, we need support from stakeholders. We need support from everyone to be able to do this difficult job. This job is not a job that myself and Mr. President can do it alone. We need the support of everyone including the electricity company to be able to help us to get this project back on track so that we can create the hundreds of thousands of jobs I want to create for Nigerians.“

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Tinubu Charges Qatari Investors to Report Bribe Demanding Officials

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By David Torough

President Bola Tinubu yesterday in Doha, Qatar charged captains of industry in Qatar to report to him any government official who will demand a bribe or any form of inducement at any point in their business activities in Nigeria.

Speaking at the Nigeria-Qatar Business and Investment Forum in Doha yesterday Tinubu told Qatari investors that Africa’s largest economy is being reformed and upgraded.

He reassured the international business community that Nigeria is ready for serious business as his administration will deal decisively with any and all entrenched interests in the country who undermine investor confidence in the Nigerian economy, pledging to remove all bottlenecks standing in the way of profitable and legitimate enterprise.

The president said, “I am here to give you the assurance that reforms are going on; forget about whatever you heard in the past. Whatever is the obstacle or problem that some of you might have experienced; it is in the past, because there is no obstacle in the future.

“Do not offer a bribe to any of our people, and if it is requested or taken from you, report to us. You will have access to me. Nigeria will no longer be defined by the past, but by what we do now and moving forward. Do not let perceptions become a hindrance to your will to invest. Nigeria is serious about revolutionizing investment promotion.

“We are removing obstacles today and we are going to continue to remove all obstacles. We have done so much within nine months. And I assure you, it is free entry and free exit. Your funds will flow smoothly into and out of our country. Bring your investments.”

Tinubu noted that the war against corruption and insecurity in Nigeria had been significantly strengthened with the appointment of the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, as National Security Adviser (NSA).

“We have a man who has won many global awards for anti-corruption as an anti-corruption czar.

“My responsibility is to tell you that Nigeria is open for business and to assure you that your investments are safe in our hands. We have men and women of great reputation here. And we believe we can forge a good committee that will advance our discussions to fruitful conclusions.

“A nation is an artificial entity unless there are good people to drive it. People build great nations and we have great people. We are ready,” the President affirmed.

Tinubu noted that Nigeria possesses vast opportunities in various fields, telling his host: “We have oil and gas; we have solid minerals. I do not see why we cannot become prolific partners in exploring iron ore, as well as steel production, and energy across the board.

“I am here to give you assurances in all spheres: tourism, hospitality, healthcare, and many other opportunities that abound around us. Do not be the investors who miss out on the golden opportunity we present,” the President added.

Welcoming the Nigerian delegation in the presence of Qatari captains of industry, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Qassim Al Abdullah Al Thani, Qatar’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, said his country looks forward to exploring opportunities in Nigeria, owing to its population demography and market, as it seeks to prioritize new investments in low carbon initiatives, mineral products, petroleum chemicals, industry, and consumables.

“We look forward to working with our Nigerian counterparts to achieve our joint objectives in these sectors,” the Minister said.

The President of the Nigeria-Qatar Business and Investment Forum were: Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum; Kaduna State Governor, Senator Uba Sani; Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu; National Security Adviser (NSA), Ribadu; Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mr. Wale Edun; Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr Dele Alake; Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate; Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola; Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr Doris Uzoka-Anite; Minister of Youth, Dr Jamila Bio Ibrahim; and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Gas), Mr. Ekperipe Ekpo.

Others at the meeting were Special Adviser on Energy, Mrs. Olu Verheijen; and the President of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Mines, and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Mr. Dele Kelvin Oye.

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COVER

Mob Beat Two Policemen to Death after Road Crash

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By Our Reporter

Two policemen on escort duty were yesterday beaten to death, two others injured following a mob action at Ikpeshi in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State.

This happened after a Toyota Hilux vehicle belonging to the escort duty policemen in the convoy of former Edo House of Assembly member Emmanuel Agbaje hit a motorcycle, resulting in the death of the rider, a woman and her child.

Ikpeshi youths, according to sources, besieged the office of Edo State Security Vigilante Network, where the two policemen were taken, overpowered them and beat the policemen to death.

Two other policemen were rescued by the vigilante members.

The rescued police were taken hospital.

The four policemen were from Police Mobile Force (PMF) 19, Port Harcourt in Rivers State.

The chairman of Akoko-Edo local council, Tajudeen Alade who condemned the activities of Ikpeshi youths declared that the persons involved would be identified, arrested and prosecuted to serve as a deterrent to others.

Edo Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Chidi Nwabuzor, confirmed the incident.

He said investigation into the incident was ongoing after which the command would release more details to the public.

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NDIC Reimburses Depositors of 183 Rested Microfinance, Mortgage Banks

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By Tony Obiechina, Abuja

Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) has reimbursed depositors of 179 rested microfinance and four mortgage banks across the country.

The Managing Director of the corporation, Dr Bello Hassan disclosed this at the NDIC Special Day during the just-concluded 45th Kaduna International Trade Fair.

Hassan, who was represented by the NDIC’s Deputy Director of Communication, Hauwa Gambo reiterated that the corporation’s priority was the protection of depositors’ funds of licensed banks in distress.

According to Hassan, in carrying out its statutory functions, the corporation has introduced the Single Customer View framework to expedite payment to depositors of liquidated banks.

He added that the NDIC has enhanced its collaboration with the judiciary for speedy prosecution of failed insured banks which has resulted in resolving long-drawn cases of closed banks such as Fortune and Triumph Banks liquidation.

According to the NDIC boss, the efforts have significantly improved the debt recovery rate, which enabled the corporation to declare 100 per cent liquidation dividends to uninsured depositors of more than 20 deposit money banks.

He said, “Our priority at NDIC is the protection of Nigerian depositors. We are dedicated to safeguarding depositors’ funds from the adverse effects of bank failure. The corporation has introduced the Single Customer View framework to expedite payment to depositors of closed banks.

“The corporation has enhanced collaboration with the judiciary for speedy prosecution of failed insured institutions. This concerted effort has resulted in resolving long-drawn cases of closed banks such as Fortune and Triumph Banks in liquidation.

“Moreover, we have utilised alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and out-of-court settlements, revitalising our liquidation activities. These efforts have significantly improved our debt recovery rate, enabling us to declare 100 per cent liquidation dividends to uninsured depositors of more than 20 deposit money banks in liquidation.”

Hassan also said that NDIC deployed digital remote payment strategies to facilitate electronic funds transfers to verified depositors’ alternate bank accounts.

To address the apathy among depositors with small balances, he said the NDIC launched the ‘Deposit Tracer’ in partnership with mobile operators, which allows depositors to access their unpaid balances through mobile accounts.

He urged depositors of banks in liquidation to utilise the various initiatives by the corporation to claim their funds trapped in closed banks.

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